Thursday, March 29, 2007

Country profile: Andorra

The first in an occasional series where we learn about very very small countries.

Almost hidden on the border between France and Spain, the tiny principality of Andorra is a land of narrow valleys and mountainous landscapes.

In 2006 the population of Andorra was 69,000 which makes it smaller than Hemel Hempstead.

For any one who has an interest in learning more about Andorra here is a link to its Wikipedia entry.

It is quite informative covering as it does demographics (highest life expectancy in the world!), the economy (mainly dependent on tourism), politics (it is a co-principality whatever that means), history (granted a charter by Charlemagne for fighting the Moors), and geography (Befitting its location in the eastern Pyrenees mountain range, Andorra consists predominantly of rugged mountains of an average height of 1996 meters.)

I couldn't find a word about football, but I suppose what with it being so mountainous they are probably hard pressed to find an area suitable for a football pitch.

And yet at half time last night in this farce I was envisaging an addition to the information about Andorra along the lines of "In March 2007 Andorra earned their first ever points in an international football championship by drawing with / defeating (delete as appropriate) a side masquerading as one of the leading footballing nations in the world - England."

Reidski told me last night that even though Scotland lost to Italy (That would be Italy - the current World Champions) they had played well and he was proud of them. That left me wondering. When was the last time I felt proud of an England football team? Ummmmm.............

P.S. Why is this all in bold anyway?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I haven't been tagged for ages, but now I have been tagged three times in the past week - by Jim and Yorkshire Pudding and Shooting Parrotsand all seem to be asking for pretty much the same thing....secrets or previously unrevealed facts about oneself.

I am always perfectly happy to get tagged.It gives me something to write about but I have been puzzling over this particular one because in most respects I am a bit of an open book and am rubbish at keeping things quiet which more sensible and discrete souls would know full well to keep stum about. There is always the subject of my wild and unabandoned sex life of course......

No, no, no one would want to read about THAT (relax Reidski!)(as I so often say.)

I may therefore struggle to reveal five previously secret things about myself but I will do my best.

1.My weight is a secret. No one knows how much I weigh and by no one I mean no one. I don't know myself because - moving swiftly on to secret 2 -

2. I am paranoid about it and dare not get on scales in case I don't like what I see. This is madness because in my saner moments I know that I am tall and slim. I am not US size 0, but I am US size 4 which is only enormous in the eyes of the Victoria Beckhams of this world. When you are my shape you should not be weight obsessed which leads on to secret 3 -

3. I am usually on a diet. People tend not to know this for assorted reasons which include the fact that I never tell anyone. Nothing worse than someone who is slim telling everyone they can't possibly have a single biscuit because they are 'on a diet.' The other reason no one would know I am usually on a diet is because when ever I am with other people I will eat huge quantities of food and drink far too much (fattening) alcohol. So what I do is when I am not out with friends or my loved one is I go steady and eat salad or stir frys, and lay off the alcohol*. I think that works for me but can't be entirely sure - refer back to secret 1.

Am quite pleased as I managed to spread out one topic to produce 3 secrets but now I am forced to declare a far far darker secret.

4. I like Manchester United. Now I do maintain that this is not entirely by choice. The first match I really remember was the 1968 European Cup Final and you know how it is with first they had George Best and I was at an impressionable age.
I have tried to keep this secret secret as it were but it does threaten to come out on occasions- like when I leap up in the air shouting "YES!" when watching United on the tele and they score. It's OK though because I just pretend I know nothing about football and was under the impression I was supporting Liverpool. Reidski knows this dark secret, but tries hard to overlook it. I hope others can now be as charitable.

5. And finally - I once had a huge arguement with my best friend over politics. We didn't speak afterwards for two weeks. SHE had said Labour was best. I had said the Tories were best. It was a very intellectual arguement along the lines of 'My dad is bigger than your dad.' She has never let me forget it. I was only 6 and I had a lot to learn.

So who else is going to reveal intimate secrets about themselves? I know many of you have already done this one. How about Moo? Nat? Tony? Spunky? Joe?

* Gasping for a glass of wine right now. That is the trouble with being on a diet - one becomes obsessed with forbidden fruits (of the grape in my case).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

England's confidence intact

according to Frank Lampard.

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard believes England's confidence has not been dented by the goalless Euro 2008 qualifying draw with Israel.

I would laugh if I wasn't so angry.

Mr Lampard is deluding himself, but he isn't fooling anyone else.

I don't think any football fan has any confidence whatsoever that we will qualify for the European Championship next year. Yesterday's display was a disgrace. Team selection was a joke. Tactical nous is non existent. I don't really blame McClaren (he of the four year contract) though because I never thought he was up to the job anyway. It's the over paid, pampered, "We are the best England players since 1966" players who obviously couldn't give a damn about playing for their country that I blame.

Well done to Scotland, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Unlucky Wales.

RUBBISH England.

I did have a great laugh watching Scotland in a pub in New Cross with Reidski and other exiled Scots though. He's happy this weekend anyway.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fishing 'n' stuff

Reidski has already mentioned a great book called 'Cod' and about cod, by Mark Kurlansky. I have just finished this book and it is amazing, showing how it can be argued that this one fish shaped the development of the western world as pursuit of the cod led to the discovery of America,and then to the economic strength of New England which in turn saw the independence of the United States. All because of one little fish - except 500 years ago they were not little fish and could grow up to six feet long and live into their 30's with the females laying millions of eggs every year.

He then goes on to show how over fishing of the fish which were so numerous in the North Atlantic some said you could walk right across the sea using their backs as stepping stones, has practically eradicted the cod in many seas.

In Hull in 1975 there were 250 fish warehouses selling cod across Europe. A year later after the last Cod War with Iceland there were 80 such warehouses, and the following year when I arrived in Hull most of those had closed too. No wonder I arrived in a dying city.

As an aside, in Hull knowing the cod as well as they do they only eat haddock, calling cod a dirty fish that lives on the bottom of the ocean and eats all the rubbish that accumulates there.

Kurlansky talks to fishermen - actually, mainly to former fishermen - some of whom accept the cod will never return to their waters, but some who are convinced a few years with a fishing ban will lead to the recovery of stocks.

Kurlansky notes that to forecast the recovery of the cod population is to gamble: "There is only one known calculation: 'When you get to zero, it will produce zero.'"

We have extinguished many species on land and although it has to be more difficult to extinguish species in the ocean according to this book we have pretty much managed that too.

Dogfish and chip supper anyone?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Local man impresses the nation with his compassion

in this story about waking up in business class to find himself sitting next to a corpse. As you do.

"I remember looking at this frail, sparrow-like woman and thinking she was very ill,” said Trinder.." who is clearly a very observant businessman.

The woman’s daughter and son-in-law arrived soon after and began grieving. Trinder said: “It was terrifying. I put my earplugs in but couldn’t get away from the fact that there was a woman wailing at the top of her voice just yards away." How annoying - I expect they get really good films in business class and they must have been really interfering with his enjoyment of the movie. The poor man.

“The police even started interviewing me as a potential witness, although I had no idea what had happened to the woman.(Note to Mr Trinder - she had died.) I just kept thinking to myself: ‘I’ve paid more than £3,000 for this’,” Trinder said.

When he asked for compensation BA allegedly told him to 'Get over it.' I really hope that is true because the compensation culture gets right on my nerves. Nice one BA.

A thing of beauty

unless one does not eat meat and then I suppose this picture might be rather vile.

Mr Yorkshire Pudding, I thought of you as I sat down with my mum and numerous other family members on Sunday for the dinner I had slaved over. I also thought all the slaving had not been in vain.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I don't think I am the only blogger

who tries to keep their blogging secret from their family so should I be worried that my daughter when out shopping with me today insisted on buying a book called 'Looking for JJ'?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Oh my God!

Petra died!!!???

I'm with Biddy Baxter on this one. The news would absolutely have been too traumatic for me to handle aged 3. I am having enough trouble dealing with the news now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An apology to all low life junkies out there

When I wrote about my handbag being nicked I know that I suggested that the thief must have been some desperate crack addict in need of his next hit. The thing is he probably wasn't. If he does take drugs I think cocaine would be more his style.

It happened in the kind of pub where such a person would struggle to get through the door. It happened in fact in this pub where I have just seen a comment from someone saying he had his i-pod and digital camera nicked in there. It is in a posh area, and it has not got CCTV.

The guy we think actually took it was about 50ish and looked very middle class. What is more,we think he was probably just one of a gang, one of whom provided the distraction of a cute puppy for me to coo over whilst another snatched the bag. Since then they have been travelling aorund the mobile phone shops of Greater London getting phone contracts, and gear from department stores on credit, all by using my identity.

You just don't think until it happens to you but for example my pay slip was in my bag. With that one little bit of paper they know where I live, my date of birth, national insurance number ,salary, bank details, and who I work for...everything in other words, they could possibly need when combined with a driving licence or credit cards to have proof of their (false)identity.

What I am trying to say here is that this wasn't an opportunist theft by a junkie after cash. It was theft by people who do this stuff for a living - and presumably thanks to e-bay, a very lucrative living. (Now I know how where all those mobiles they auction off come from.) So I feel I should a) apologise to junkies everywhere, and b) say to everyone else, don't be as bloody stupid as I was because there will always be some unscrupulous bastard waiting to take advantage of that stupidity.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More on my mum

Mum and I have both recently had 'issues' with parking tickets. I got one in London back in January in spite of having purchased a valid ticket for the entire 20 minutes before any parking restrictions were lifted for the evening. This provoked a three page letter accompanied by several photographs to illustrate the profound injustice done unto me. I won my appeal but I suspect my mum will not be so lucky. In fact, I suspect her card is now 'well and truly marked'.

Two days ago she was headed into town and realised she needed some change to park in the town centre multi storey carpark so she stopped to pop into a shop and get some. Her first mistake was to leave the car on a single yellow line. She reckoned she was less than 5 minutes but when she emerged form the shop there was a traffic warden writing out a ticket.She went and protested that she had only been 5 minutes. "Oh no" says he, I saw you parking and that was definitely longer than 5 minutes ago."
"I bet you ran like bloody hell to get here before I got out that shop" says my mum, who is incensed. He ignored her and continued to write out the ticket which he then slapped with a grand gesture on her windscreen.

Mum's second mistake was to take the ticket off the windscreen and slap it on his chest. He did n't exactly see the funny side of being insulted thus by a 71 year old pensioner.

When he announced that she would have to pay double the fine if she left the ticket where it was she was unfortunately forced to remove said parking ticket, but I still hope I have got half her spirit when I get to that age.

And also that I look like she does.

Red Nose Day

Yes, rather than climb in a bath of baked beans for the day how about making a contribution to Troubled Diva's Shaggy Blog Stories.

But you will need to be quick - the poor man plans to have put the book put together by Wednesday evening.

Friday, March 09, 2007

In which I receive voice mail

I got a replacement phone through and happily was able to keep my same number.

Then I got a text to tell me I had a voice mail.

I dial the number to listen to a message beginning thus:

"You fucking bastard you ...." and much more in a similar vein.

Thanks mum, I love you too.

In her defence she was under the impression she was leaving a message for the bag thief.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

If you should meet anyone claiming to be me

do me a favour and smash their face in.

Sorry about the show of aggression but I have found out today that not content with stealing my bag, the bastards have now stolen my identity as well.

I got a call from a fraud investigation unit because someone tried to open a Debenhams store account using my ID. On this occasion they didn't get away with it as apparently the signature didn't look genuine, and the woman legged it when challenged, but who knows how many times they have already tried and succeeded since Sunday.*

I guess I will find out when the bills for things I haven't bought start pouring in.

I feel really, really upset about it.

So much for my avowed intention not to let the bastards get me down.

* At least once. Have just had first monthly bill for a phone contract - a mere £61.10. So I have to ring the company and they want proof of my bloody the proof the criminals have got I suppose.

Make that at least twice. It seems I needed to take out another mobile phone contract this past week as well. Clearly a girl can never have too many phone contracts.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Football on TV

A few weeks ago Reidski and I watched Northampton play Brentford on Sky Sports in a popular town pub. OK, not exactly a high profile match, but featuring as it did our local side I expected the pub to be quite busy and made sure I was in there early to secure a good seat and view of one of the many TV screens. I need not have worried. There was PLENTY of space. I reckon there were probably about a dozen of us in specifically to see the game and one of those was a Scot who really supports Millwall.

Fast forward to last night and same pub, different match. Yes, of course I accept that Liverpool v Barcelona in the Championship League is a much bigger match, and no, I am not surprised that it was standing room only by the time we got there, but what was slightly surprising was the number of people in there who were obviously Liverpool fans.

It was clear that the people crammed in the pub last night did n't just have a general interest in football but were there to support 'Their' team. Most of them had Liverpool shirts on. They hung on every pass in the way that only people who really really care about the outcome of a match can do. However, there was a distinct lack of Scouse accents. I rather suspect (yes, I acknowledge I could be wrong but...) that they were not in fact from Liverpool, but were actually all local.

Geographical fact coming up.

Northampton (which has had a football league side of its own for about 110 years) is 149 miles from Liverpool.

Most of the people in the pub last night were of an age that made me think they probably started supporting Liverpool when they were in primary school and Liverpool were winning everything going in the 70's and 80's. I know that at that age you can fall for a side on the basis of success and that maybe I was just unfortunate to fall for a lower league side.

What I do also know though is that lower league sides face a constant battle to stay in business. We have an average attendance of about 5,000 home supporters. We have a population of about 250,000 people. It seems a shame that a few of the passionate football supporters in that pub last night can't get themselves along to support the local side instead of spending good money on Liverpool replica shirts and Sky Sports subscriptions as that is for most of them I assume the only way they ever get to see 'Their' side play.

Milton Keynes which is about 15 miles from us is a new town and had no football team. They recognised that a town needs league football so they pinched Wimbledon who have now magically morphed into 'MK Dons'. There is so much I could say about that but I would never get to work if I started on that subject right now. (Suffice to say I disapprove strongly.) However, at least they did see the importance of having a league side to a city/town. I don't think there are many people in this town who give a damn about Northampton Town Football Club.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The new laptop realised

it had been making my life far too pleasant what with its tendency to come on at the push of a button, and to then work for periods in excess of ten minutes without crashing.

It was letting its fellow computers around the world down.

Aggravation had to be caused or Jane was in danger of living a stress free existence (when not being robbed, or writing off her car, or dealing with three teenagers, or ringing 'customer care' centres etc etc etc) and aggravation was duly caused.

My wireless free network started playing up incessantly.

I was not happy.

I will go further and say I was most unhappy.

I have spent what seems like hours in the past few weeks unplugging and reconnecting routers. Sometimes it condescended to work afterwards. Sometimes it did not.

I have however just made a rather interesting discovery which I am cautiously optimistic may help.

It turns out that if the wireless connection switch on the front of the laptop is pushed to the 'On' position, the wireless connection will work. Conversely, when it is pushed to the 'Off' position it will not.

What ever will they think of next?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

There was a lot about this weekend that was wonderful

Although for those who prefer misery stay with me - there will be a 'But' later on in this post.

It has been spent with Reidski. We had a great time. We met Messalina at lunchtime on Saturday and her very brilliant bloke - who by sheer coincidence has exactly the same birthday as me so we had a double celebration. I have to admit though that drinking at lunchtime on an empty stomach wasn't such a good idea - and I am not ever so clear about everything that happened Saturday lunchtime - except I do know I was not the victim of crime at that time.

After lunch I did manage to sober up which was a Very Good Thing as it was present buying time - and much to my joy and his relief - it didn't take everso long to find some rather lovely things which he very kindly bought me.

We got back to his and had a take away, watched Gregory's Girl and a nice cosy evening. And today, again, had a great time - saw Francis Rossi having a pint in Islington. West Ham managed to lose having gone in the lead with just 5 minutes remaining. Went to one of my favourite pubs before I had to get off home..........and that was when things took a turn for the worse.

As previously mentioned in Marrakech I bought a posh handbag. I liked having a posh handbag.I had never had one before - and it gave me the kind of lift which any bloke will have difficulty identifying with. What did not occur to me before is that having a posh handbag might possibly make me resemble a person who has things worth stealing contained within the posh handbag. Anyway, lucky me - I was the proud owner of a posh handbag for all of three weeks.

From having never been the victim of crime I have now been the victim of crime twice in the last few months..

I wish to give notice that I am now thoroughly pissed off with being the victim of crime and can in future any scum bag thieves please ignore me - a lowly paid, permanently broke social worker, and pick on people like the merchant wankers mentioned below who can afford to be the victim of crime - and would in any event put in a fraudulently inflated insurance claim.

Yes, some bastard nicked my nice posh handbag - along with credit cards, bank cards, phone, and far more cash than usual as I had just been given some birthday money and the usual contents of a woman's handbag -rawlplugs, balaclava etc

Thank god Reidski had been driving my car and had put the keys in his pocket instead of handing them to me to put in my bag as he would normally do or I would have been well and truly stuffed.

Talking of being stuffed - if anyone finds one of these dumped in the vicinity of Primrose Hill, London NW3 - it's not mine...honest!

And sod you you thiefing scum bag heroin addict - I had a great weekend in spite of your best efforts.

Thanks Reidski for every thing. xxxxxxxxxx

Friday, March 02, 2007

Crime and punishment

We hear a lot about 'benefit cheats'.. In our local paper there are regular court reports featuring some single parent who has been caught working whilst claiming benefit. I've had to try and manage on benefits before. It ain't easy. God alone knows how people with children cope. The ones we read about aren't usually engaged in high powered well paid employment - cleaning jobs feature a lot as do catering ones. Nevertheless they have made inaccurate claims and know that if when so doing they get caught, they will get punished.

My friend works for one of the world's biggest merchant banks. This article talks about the kind of salaries the brokers at banks like hers earn. Here's an extract from it:

Sulger-Buel says private bankers in London are among the best paid in the world. Top London bankers in the traditional relationship mould (private bankers hold wealthy clients' hands and gently help them choose the right products to manage their wealth), can earn up to £500,000.

But he also says the real money in London is to be made working for U.S. banks who operate a brokerage model (private bankers telephone wealthy clients and do their best to sell them equities/bonds/derivatives or any other form of security). Private client brokers are paid a proportion of the fees they earn. London brokers bringing in £3 million of fees easily could be paid £1 million.

What it doesn't mention are the annual bonus's. A broker who does not collect an annual bonus of at least £5 million according to my friend considers him/herself hard done by.

My friend has recently moved departments and now works for the internal fraud department. She started looking at expense claims and soon realised that two brokers - fairly middling level brokers - had systematically been fiddling their expense accounts over a prolonged period. She proved that they had been falsely claiming around £20,000 a month. Yes, I did mean to say 'a month'. Let us remind ourselves we are talking about employees at a very highly regarded and trusted financial institution.

Obviously there has been an investigation and my friend has been proved correct.

Going back to the beginning of this story, we as a society take a very dim view of cheats and consider they should be hung right out to dry. So of course we might expect to read about these two criminals as their high profile trial at the Old Bailey progresses. Except that actually we won't read a word about it because the very reputable bank has hushed it up and reached an agreement where the pair will repay the expenses they claimed 'in error.'* It seems it is only if you are a rather desperate single parent working night shifts in a food packing warehouse that you can expect to see your name all over the papers for cheating.

The bank has also demonstrated that they are a caring and compassionate employer by not actually sacking these two. After all we all make mistakes don't we? My friend suspects that there in fact is the rub and that if they started sacking everyone found to have fiddled their expenses they would soon have no brokers left.

* It's not that I am entirely unsympathetic to this pair. I am sure it is all too easy to miscalculate one's expenses by a mere £20,000 a month. Although my sympathy is somewhat tested when I consider that I would have to work from January to the end of October to earn what they have been fiddling in one month.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

John is right

This is the funniest blog post ever.